Hatter springs awake from his nightmare, just as something hits the bird cage and makes a dreadful racket. He reaches for Alice automatically and panics when nothing’s there. “Alice!” Hatter doesn’t know what is going on, but he has a bad feeling, and knows it has to do with his Alice. She isn’t here with him, in his arms, safe.
Charlie has jumped out of his hammock, saying something about the noise is his early warning system, and that his perimeter has been broken through.
Hatter is more worried about his nightmares and the dread he is feeling in his chest. He grabs his hat, flipping it onto his head absently as he quickly heads to the bathing room. It is the only place he can’t see and he hopes Alice is there… ‘Yeah since she wouldn’t have come running with you yelling her name or with that dreadful racket!’ He can’t give up hope. The alternatives are…bad, very bad. He shudders upon the thought.
As he runs over, he notices that it looks as if a scuffle had occurred on the trail. He slides to a stop and looks around. Hatter notices a lot of tracks and something on the ground. As he moves closer, his heart aches as recognizes it. Alice’s coat. Freezing for a second, he takes a tight grip on his emotions as he reaches down and picks it gently up. It is cold and wrinkled, like it has been laying there most of the night. He knows she really likes the coat; she would never drop it like that voluntarily. He clenches his right hand into a fist, what others have named his Sledgehammer for it’s ability to be able to puverize solid rock, his anger and his feeling of pure pain of not knowing what is happening to him, or her. ‘Alice…’
Hatter feels the Madness coming over him and he can’t let it. He has to keep calm and think this through, Alice is depending on him. He knows she didn’t leave him willingly. Not after last night and the coat confirms it. She was taken from him. But, why would they take Alice? He thinks, and realizes, the Stone of Wonderland!?!
Hatter needs to see if the Stone of Wonderland is still there where Alice left it for safekeeping. Alice has entrusted him with the secret of where it is, but he also has to make sure Charlie doesn’t see where it is.
Hatter moves carefully back into the throne area. He discreetly looks around trying to find Charlie, and notices that Charlie is still preoccupied with his alarm system, as Charlie runs around yelling for some brigand. Hatter then glances at the Red King to make sure the ring is still there, on the skeletal hand. Seeing the ring glinting slightly, he closes his eyes in relief. Whoever grabbed her, took her without checking to see if she had the ring. Because of them being in a rush, Hatter may have a chance to save her. He has promised her that he will come for her, that is the least he will do for Alice… he will die for her if that is what it takes.
Thinking, Hatter is pretty sure he knows who could have slipped into the camp and not set off the alarm. Though he is puzzled why Mad March didn’t come after him also. If that is who he thinks the walking rabbit cookie jar is, Mad March will have a good reason to come after Hatter. Then, another thought comes to him; hopefully Alice keeps their relationship quiet. Mad March will have no problem hurting her to get to him. But, there is no need to borrow trouble. He has enough on his plate right now and Alice is very smart. He needs to trust her, as she says she trusts him.
“Charlie, I need a horse!” Hatter needs to get moving, to get to her as fast as possible.
Charlie jumps and looks at him in confusion, “What… huh?”
Hatter doesn’t have time for this, every second he or Charlie wastes, puts Alice in more danger. He tells Charlie quickly, “Remember when we met and Alice told you that there were some bad men following us? Well, they somehow found us and took her last night to the Heart’s Casino.” Hatter closes his eyes and prays that someone is looking after her in that place. He states, “I am going after her.”
Charlie looks at him surprised, “But, it’s certain death!”
Hatter explains to him, “I love her Charlie. I can’t just let her go…I would do anything for her.”
“Ah, you told Just Alice then? Good, good…I had hoped one of you would come to your senses. Well, then. This changes things a bit. Hmm…aye, follow me.” He leads him over to the stable and calls the horses to him. Hatter grabs tack and starts to saddle Guinevere.
Charlie watches him for a second, then unable to contain himself any longer, he asks, “Which way to the casino should we go?”
“You don’t have to come, Charlie. This isn’t your fight.” Hatter worked threw the saddle on Guinevere. ‘It’s mine. I failed her. I need to get her back… Hatter, you need to stay in control. You can’t help her if you give in to it!’ He concentrates on saddling the horse. He is aware that Charlie is still talking, but he has to get to his Alice…
Charlie is upset; he knows he has to go along. He can’t explain it to the boy. He is well aware that Hatter thinks he is crazy, but, he is being told that he has to go.
As Charlie moves past Hatter to make his point more clearly, he tells him, “You can’t be more wrong! You led the Alice of Legend to me for a reason. Call it what you will; divinity, fate, an alignment of forces beyond mortal understanding.” He turns to Hatter, “In time you will see that I am the true paladin here, and you, are merely a Harbinger.”
Hatter is not paying attention; Charlie tries harder, “Besides, you’ll never find her without my help. Remember I am also well-versed in the black arts. We shall be guided by my psychic connection to the mysterious sinews that bind mankind to the outer realm.” Charlie spins around and starts chanting, “Galadoon…. de booshe.”
Hatter finishes saddling Guinevere, mounts and starts heading out.
Charlie tries one last time, “You’re going the wrong way Harbinger. We should go the west route.”
Hatter stops, turns his horse, and answers him, “You go west. I’m going east.”
Charlie straightens up and looks at him puzzled, “Why?”
“That’s the way the tracks led. And the fastest route there. Charlie…” Hatter shakes his head. “I have to go.” He turns around Guinevere and kicks her into a gallop. Before he gets very far Charlie is right behind him fully dressed. “How did you…?”
Charlie looks at him and answers, “I’m a Knight, Harbinger!” He rides up beside him and keeps pace with him.
Hatter shakes his head. Maybe he will be useful. He will take any help he can get since he doesn’t think it will be easy to get Alice out of the casino. And he has a feeling everything is about to come to a head. Hatter’s face becomes determined. He has to be there when it does right beside his Alice. Nothing else will be acceptable. ‘You wanted her here. Now please keep her safe!’ He shakes his head…talking to Wonderland of all places! He must be going mad. His mum’s voice echoes in his head, “All the best people are…” He smiles.
Hatter has a tingle on the back of his neck when he reaches the outer perimeter of the Kingdom. He can feel it’s sadness but also…understanding? He realizes it is lonely and makes a silent promise to it. ‘I will be back… with my Alice.’